Reform hope to protect country voting power

Thursday June 04, 2020

Published by The Border Watch 

By Raquel Mustillo

Mount Gambier MP leads charge to stop rural representation erosion

A CONSTITUTIONAL change which aims to ensure greater country representation has been introduced to Parliament by Member for Mount Gambier Troy Bell.

Mr Bell hopes to gain support for the change, which if supported will increase South Australia’s electoral quota permissable tolerance from 10 to 12pc.

Speaking in Parliament yesterday, Mr Bell said the main objective of the bill was to make sure the state’s regions were properly represented.

“Before each state election, the Electoral Districts Boundary Commission has to ensure each electorate has similar numbers of voters, with a tolerance of 10pc,” he said.

“As the regions lose their population base, regional MPs will have to take on greater distances to be within that 10pc and eventually, this will lead to more MPs in and around the city of Adelaide.”

MacKillop is one of three electorates which is currently outside the permissible 10pc of voters and will require a boundary redraw before the 2022 election.

Under the State Liberal Party’s proposed redraw of boundaries, Tarpeena, Mingbool and Pleasant park would no longer be in the Mount Gambier electorate and would instead vote for the Member for MacKillop at the next election.

Invited to meet with Tarpeena residents and Grant District Council last month, Mr Bell said those present had indicated they wished to remain in the Mount Gambier electorate.

“It makes sense for small towns to be aligned with nearby bigger communities they work, shop and do their main business in,” he said.

“Regional residents do not want to be shuffled around from seat to seat - they deserve some continuity with their elected member.”

The independent MP said he was looking forward to some rigorous debate from both sides of politics when the bill is read for a third time on June 17.

Last month, Australian Labor Party SA branch state secretary Reggie Martin labelled Mr Bell’s motion as “undemocratic” and vehemently rejected the proposal.

“Labor fought for more than 30 years to have the current electoral system which is designed to give every voter an equal say on election day,” he told The Border Watch last month.

“This is the principle of onevote, one-value and it requires the number of voters in each electorate to be roughly equal.

“For Mr Bell to be suggesting that South Australia should move further away from equality, rather than closer to equality, is undemocratic and Labor rejects the proposal.”